LONDON -- British motor vehicle distributor Inchcape Plc reported a 12.4 percent rise in annual pre-tax profit on Monday, boosted its dividend and said it expected operating and underlying profit to grow in 2003.
Shares in Inchcape gained almost two percent after the firm posted 2002 pre-tax profit before exceptionals and goodwill of 112.1 million pounds ($177 million), in line with forecasts, and proposed a 15.4 percent increase in the second-half dividend.
"We are confident that we will continue to make further progress," Chief Executive Peter Johnson told Reuters, adding this meant growth at both the operating and underlying levels.
Inchcape's six top markets are Britain, Hong Kong, Greece, Belgium, Australia and Singapore. It distributes mostly at the wholesale level and some at retail for Toyota, Mazda, Ferrari, Jaguar, BMW, Peugeot and Subaru. Inchcape sells nearly a fifth of the world's Maserati and Ferrari luxury sports cars.
"It is in the UK market where Inchcape now has both its greatest challenges and opportunities," the company said. "Much of our earlier investment in retail, business services and alternative sales channels will start to deliver growth allied to improved margins."
Sales rose six percent to 3.517 billion pounds.
Inchcape said it was positioned to gain from changes in European Block Exemption laws requiring car makers to terminate their existing agreements with distributors and dealers.
The new laws allow dealers to sell more than one brand in the same showroom and force motor vehicle manufacturers to supply spare parts and tools to independent repair shops.
"The revised legislation has turned out much as we predicted, and the opportunities for large, well financed groups to invest further with their chosen (car manufacturing) partners are considerable," Inchcape said.